What Do We Remember?

I had thought carefully on whether I would write on this topic.  I will admit, I was going to avoid it but after much more thought and several conversations, I decided I should.

Remembrance Day is something we Canadians (and other Commonwealth nations) observe every year on November 11th.  This day is largely known as a time of peace, solemn reflection, and sadness.  It is a time in which people gather around to remember those who have served our country and died in times of conflict, war and peace.  I truly believe that these are important to remember and we must never lose that.  However, through all the military pomp and ceremony, I find myself wondering if we are truly remembering.

I, myself, joined the Army Reserves at the age of 17 and while my stay was short and my contribution small, I was proud of the 2 years I wore that uniform.  I have known many people who have gone overseas.  I have even known a few that never came back.  I remember them and thank them for their service.  They are my friends.  They are my family. I will never forget them.

Too often, I think, we lose sight of what we should be remembering.  Even today, we find ourselves wrapped up in conflicts across the globe.  The newspapers report on this action over here, or this operation over there.  We sit at home while we are told of these events.  As civilians, we are removed from them.  We do not experience these conflicts first hand.  We can not truly understand the full implications of what is going on.  We forget the full impact of what war truly is.

There are many things we don’t like to talk about.  While we talk of the dead, we don’t often like to talk about those that came back – their memories haunted by what they’ve seen.  We don’t like to talk about the civilians who get caught in the crossfire – the men, women and children who had no choice in the matter.  We don’t like to talk about those who have lost fathers, mothers and children.  Instead, we distract ourselves by talking about how the event will destabilize the economy and government  all while driving the prices up back home.

Are these people any less deserving of our remembrance?

I could write a whole book on civilian casualties during the Second World War; I could tell you about the villages and towns that were decimated – the population either dead or scattered to the wind.  I did not live through these events.  I’ve read about them, studied them in school, wrote small essays and articles about them.  Nonetheless, in my own way, I remember them.

This Remembrance Day, I watch as the wreaths are laid at the cenotaph.  I listen as the trumpet plays Last Post.  I observe the silence before the pipes start their haunting hymn.  I remember my family who served in those great wars long passed.  I remember my friends who wore and continue to wear the uniform.  I remember those in and out of uniform that have been scarred by their experience.  I remember those who never left and those who never came back.  I remember those who got caught in the middle.  I remember those I never knew.

For me, this Remembrance Day, and every future Remembrance Day, is not just about those that fought in war, but everybody who has ever been touched by war.

Today, I remember.


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